Amid shortage, Copperas Cove ISD staff begin teacher training on district’s dime

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 12:23 AM CDT
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) - Amid the nationwide teaching shortage, a Central Texas school district is getting creative.

To help fill its own gap, the Copperas Cove Independent School District is putting qualified staff on the fast-track to becoming certified teachers.

“The response has been overwhelming, we have so many people that are interested in it in the district,” said Amanda Crawley, Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services for CCISD.

73 paraprofessionals (instructional aides) are now working toward becoming teachers by going back to school...and it’s on the district’s dime.

“These are our paraprofessionals who are pursuing their teaching degree and certificate,” said Crawley. “We’re just seeing a general overall excitement that they can come here, work with us, and earn their degree while they’re here.”

CCISD has started a program called Rising Instructors Soaring In Education (R.I.S.E.) to tackle the district’s teacher shortage by offering them a college education for free while they teach in the district’s schools as paid interns.

“As everyone in the State of Texas and nationwide, we are facing a teacher shortage,” said Crawley. “We are using our own internal people to grow our own teachers here in Copperas Cove ISD, we’re investing in our own staff.”

Aydee Gonzalez has three children who attend CCISD schools and says she’s been wanting to further--and finish--her education in education for years, a now she can through the R.I.S.E. program.

“I am a military wife, and so for many years I had to put that track on pause, and now that this opportunity has presented itself, I’m just really excited to jump on it.”

Gonzalez was a former instructional aide with the district, but through the R.I.S.E. program, she’s now a second-grade teacher.

The program allows for paraprofessionals, like Gonzalez, who have at least 60 hours of college credit under their belts to apply for teaching internships where they work under an experienced teacher.

District officials say it’s self-paced, but participants can earn degrees in as little as two years and even sooner if they have enough college credits coming in.

“I will have my certification by next year, and then I plan to be a bilingual-certified teacher,” said Gonzalez. “It’s teaching me a lot about curriculum, lesson planning, classroom’s really putting me into the right path to be a great teacher in the future.”

The district is partnering with Indiana Wesleyan University to offer the courses to their paraprofessional staff after school.

“They will gain college credit with Indiana Wesleyan, but they’re doing it in Copperas Cove,” said Crawley. “They get to choose what track they want to be on and what grade level they’re interested in teaching, some of them are early childhood, some of them are elementary, some of them are junior high and some of them are high school teachers.”

Tuesday was the first day of training for the future teachers.

“We’re teaching them how to manage a classroom, how to work with students on routines and procedures, all the things that you would need to know to be a successful teacher in a classroom in Copperas Cove ISD,” said Crawley.

Crawley says they have the biggest shortage of teachers in special education, science and math.

“Those are areas that we’re hoping to fill, but honestly, there’s openings all throughout, so we’re just excited to be able to get hem hired in any of our positions,” said Crawley.

By hiring them on as interns initially through the R.I.S.E. program, it allows the district to have them ‘pay their way.’

“That intern salary is not their full teaching salary, so we’re able to hire them at a reduced rate and then use that money to forward-fund their college education,” said Crawley. “We pay them to be here, and we’re paying for their college: as a result of that, we ask them to stay with us for three years after they graduate.”

When hearing other districts in the state were doing something similar, Crawley says CCISD’s Superintendent asked her to look into it, and she brought it to the school board for approval.

“It’s an awesome program,” said Crawley. “It’s been a major recruitment tool for us, we’re seeing more applicants to the district because of it.”

In addition to teachers, CCISD is hiring substitute teachers and school bus drivers.

For more information on current openings go here.